132 regular season NFL games in the books, 125 left to go. It official we passed the halfway point. I hope your favorite team is still in the playoff hunt, if not, I hope your fantasy team is still relevant. If that’s not the case either, adopt a team! I recommend adopting a team from the other conference. If you are a Ravens fan for instance and they have been super unlucky and would have to have a series of miracles occur for them to sneak into the playoffs, adopt an NFC team. Maybe the Rams and the best rookie running back in the long time, Todd Gurley.
Well because we are at the mid season point, before we get into the actual NFL:64, let’s do some awards. Not your typical MVP, Coach of the Year sort of awards. We are going to cut the sleeves off that idea. Keep reading, you’ll catch on, it’s not rocket science.
The Varsity Blues Hook and Ladder Failure Award goes to the Colts for their improbably stupid fake punt alignment and attempt against the Patriots in week 6. Question 1, why do you try that play against a team that is the most prepared team week in and week out for the last 15 years? Question 2, why do you continue with the idea if one of the key components of the play got hurt earlier and won’t be on the field? Question 3, why did the ball get snapped?
The Varsity Blues Hook and Ladder Success Award goes to The New Orleans Saints for executing a fake Field Goal by leaking Ben Watson off the end against…the Colts the week after they failed in their own trick play attempt against the Pats. It was classic Sean Payton who once onside kicked out of halftime during a close Super Bowl. Well designed, well timed, and well executed.
The LL Cool J Something like a Phenomenon Running Back Awardgoes to Devonta Freeman. He wasn’t expected to be in the running, but an early injury to to Tevin Coleman opened up an opportunity and Freeman has become a stud in both on the field football term and fantasy terms.
The Rudy Award for a go who has a sack and totally shouldn’t goes to Giants fullback Nikita Whitlock. The Giants defensive line was so injured they started to utilize Whitlock as a pass rusher on third and longs and he got a sack. He is unlikely to get another with Jason Pierre Paul back from his hand explosion, but there wasn’t too much better unintentional comedy (outside of the Colts trick play) than watching Whitlock line up against big left and right tackles.
The Shane ‘Barnacle Cleaning’ Falco Award goes to Robert Griffin III. Falco was a former Heisman winner left for dead before an NFL strike allowed him a second chance at pro football in The Replacements. It feels like RGIII is going to need a similar situation for a chance to become NFL relevant again.
The Longest Yard Award for the guy who should be playing in a penal league not the NFL goes to Greg Hardy with Aldon Smith being a close second. Neither of these guys should be in NFL right now. I’m not saying they should be banned for life, but they need to do their time and then they can try and reestablish their careers, like any other person who commits a crime.
Back to 4 bye week teams this week. Check your fantasy lineups! Get anyone on the bye list teams out of your fantasy lineups, after you finish reading this whole article, of course.
|ATL (6-3)||IND (4-5)||SD (2-7)||SF (3-6)|
|BUF (4-4)@NYJ (5-3)|
|DET (1-7)@GB (6-2)||DAL (2-6)@TB (3-5)|
|CAR (8-0)@TEN (2-6)||CHI (3-5)@STL (4-4)|
|NO (4-5)@WAS (3-5)||MIA (3-5)@PHI (4-4)|
|CLE (2-7)@PIT (5-4)||JAC (2-6)@BAL (2-6)|
|MIN (6-2)@OAK (4-4)||NE (8-0)@NYG (5-4)|
|KC (3-5)@DEN (7-1)|
|ARZ (6-2)@SEA (4-4)|
|HOU (3-5)@CIN (8-0)|
|1.NE 8-0 LW1|
|2.CIN 8-0 LW2|
|3.CAR 8-0 LW4|
|4.DEN 7-1 LW3|
|5.ARZ 6-2 LW6|
|6.GB 6-2 LW5|
|7.MIN 6-2 LW7|
|8.SEA 4-4 LW8|
|9.STL 4-4 LW9|
|10.OAK 4-4 LW10|
|11.NYJ 5-3 LW11|
|12.PIT 5-4 LW13|
|13.NYG 5-4 LW14|
|14.BUF 4-4 LW16|
|15.ATL 6-2 LW12|
|16.KC 3-5 LW20|
|17.NO 4-5 LW15|
|18.PHI 4-4 LW21|
|19.IND 4-5 LW22|
|20.WAS 3-5 LW19|
|21.MIA 3-5 LW17|
|22.CHI 3-5 LW25|
|23.TB 3-5 LW23|
|24.JAC 2-6 LW18|
|25.DAL 2-6 LW24|
|26.BAL 2-6 LW26|
|27.HOU 3-5 LW28|
|28.TEN 2-6 LW30|
|29.SD 2-7 LW27|
|30.CLE 2-7 LW29|
|31.DET 1-7 LW31|
|32.SF 3-6 LW32|
- The Falcons have had their wings clipped and very quickly falling back to mediocre. Not that I think they were ever one of the elite teams, but they started off with a bang and had a huge chance to ease their way into the playoffs. Now they are 1 loss away from fighting for a wild card tie and hoping to have the tiebreakers go in their favor. Big week for adjustments and to rest and get healthy.
- Matt Ryan wasn’t as good as he seemed early and he’s not as bad as he has seemed lately. I still think he finished as a top 10 QB. I hope you have Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman on your teams. Everyone else is just sort of a guy and with bye weeks coming to an end, probably only worth having on a roster in case of an injury.
- A huge win against Denver and then a huge loss in Andrew Luck missing probably at least a month due to a lacerated kidney. That’s 2 lacerated kidneys in two weeks (Keenan Allen of San Diego being the other). What is going on in the NFL, are these guys playing with shives? I don’t recall this many lacerated kidneys in Oz.
- Everyone on the Colts drops a little bit without Luck being in the lineup. Hasselback just isn’t a long term answer and all the weapons will suffer. I don’t think you should drop Luck, Frank Gore, Ty Hilton or Donte Moncrief, but I’m probably not starting them if I can avoid it.
- It’s a lost last season for the Chargers, which is sad because Los Angeles Super Chargers just doesn’t have the same ring to it. As a football team they probably weren’t a playoff team to begin with and then everyone got hurt. I think this is a team that will benefit greatly from a top 10 pick in the draft and almost expect them to sort of, kind of try and end up there without looking like they are tanking.
- I only want to start Philip Rivers in fantasy. I can see the value of owning Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon, but I don’t feel like they can be counted on. Antonio Gates and Stevie Johnson are just about the only guys I want as WRs, but again am not sure I want to start them without seeing how productive they can be in a lineup missing all those important pieces.
- I don’t know how this team got to 3 wins, but they did. Blind squirrel finding a nut and all those cliches. It really only hurts them as they try and rebuild a roster that is terrible and completely lacking in depth.
- I’ll own Carlos Hyde, but I’m not starting him.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- The Bills beat the Dolphins fairly convincingly last week with a power running game and a timely passing game. The defense was consistent in, to borrow an old Patriots phrase, bending, but not breaking. I expect more of the same against the Jets from the defense, as the Jets and Dolphins are similarly constructed. Offensively I expect a little bit more of a quick passing attack and the running game to be a quick passing game to get the ball into LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams’s hands in space away from the defensive line.
- I’m confident in Tyrod Taylor, McCoy (if he plays), Williams(even if McCoy plays), Sammy Watkins (if he plays) and Charles Clay will all put up pretty good performances as the best way to stress the Jets defense is to spread the ball around and force them to try and make too many adjustments.
- The defense hasn’t been the same since the Patriots gave everyone a blueprint on how to move the ball against them. It hasn’t prevented them from winning game because not everyone has the Patriots personnel, but it has made them vulnerable. They can win this game, but will need a pretty mistake free performance from Ryan Fitzpatrick, and while I say this every week, he is due a stinker.
- Brandon Marshall (if he plays) Eric Decker (if her plays) and Chris Ivory are safe fantasy plays. If you are super desperate you can take your chances with Fitz, but i have the same fear I had last week that he could stink and that he could end up out of this game early if that hand gets hit wrong.
Bills 30, Jets 27
The rest of the picks to come later tonight!
SUNDAY 1 PM GAMES
- The owner has told declared that the interim GM needs to win now or that he will have little chance to remove that interim tag in front of this title. Good to put that out there a week after the trade deadline. I’ve said it all year, the coach is the problem. He isn’t a good head football coach. He may be a great guy and swell offensive coordinator, but he can’t run the whole show. Time management, decision making and defense all lack when Jim Caldwell is on top of the heap and it shows in spades.
- You probably have to play Calvin Johnson, Eric Ebron is one of those TEs in the 4-12 range each week depending on if he falls into the end zone and Matthew Stafford can be ok is you are desperate, but until there is some clarity in the running game I’d stay away.
- Aaron Rodgers is not happy about what happened the last 2 weeks and I can only imagine that he comes out ready to kill Lions like that dentist, but with the added bonus of not having to worry about PETA. I don’t know that he can do it though. I thought the defense was pretty good early in the year, but now they can’t seem to stop anyone from doing anything they want. And who knew that the Rodgers weapon tree would lose it leaves this easily with the loss of Jordy Nelson? I mean we all thought he and Randall Cobb were like 1 and 1A, but wow has that not been the case.
- You are playing your Packers, Rodgers, Cobb, Devante Adams, and which ever RB you feel comfortable with because both are going to get touches.
Packers 34, Lions 20
- I think Dallas’s defense is too good to not win one game by themselves while Tony Romo is out. Plus Matt Cassel showed he could put up a couple of point last week against a defense similarly ranked to the Bucs. So that is why I took the Cowboys and the points. There are problems in Dallas though and they aren’t small, and that isn’t simply a everything is big in Texas joke. Greg Hardy’s presence alone is eclipsing the positive influences of people like Jason Written and it’s starting to be seen in the one place Dallas needs to have it not show, Dez Bryant. Keeping the talent of Hardy around is winning out over the shadow he is casting and Jerry Jones better hope that shadow doesn’t stick around after he eventually has to set Hardy loose.
- I’d play Dez Bryant, and Jason Whiten with no problem, I’m a little hesitant about Darren McFadden because the Bucs have some very good run defenders, but if you’ve been relying on him by all means play him.
- The loss wasn’t as bad as the final score indicated last week. This team could make a run at a playoff spot, it’s not likely, but they could. (I mean they would need Lovie Smith to know what the fuck he is doing and no one thinks that day is coming soon.) Also what happened to Mike Evans’s hands? That was a miserable performance and he hasn’t been at all consistent.
- You have to play Evans because of the sheer volume of targets, even if he does drop half of them. I think Doug Martin will be back at RB until he fumbles or gets hurt again. Jameis Winston has entered the top 15 fantasy QBs and at this rate will be a top 10 QB in 2016. In keeper/dynasty you may want to slot him onto your bench as the need for depth disappears as the bye weeks end. If Austin Sefarian-Jenkins ever plays again he is another of those 4-12 TEs.
Cowboys 24, Buccaneers 21
- People are expecting a big let down from Carolina after their last big couple of weeks. I don’t see it. What they need to do, and I said it last week, is possess the ball better. Grind out more first downs, keep the offense on the field and give the defense more time to rest. The second halves of their games have turned into can the defense make 1 more big play to seal the victory and they have. It won’t last forever, but it will likely last through a visit to Tennessee.
- Play Cam Newton, Johnathan Stewart and Greg Olsen. If your debating between guys on other teams like Travis Benjamin, Danny Amendola, Tavon Austin, or Marcus Colston, I’d take a flyer on Devin Funchess. The Titans give up yards to WRs and the Panthers need a WR to emerge even just a little bit to take the pressure off of the running game and Olsen.
- The Titans are a far better team when Marcus Mariota is under center, it’s just a matter of fact at this point. He isn’t especially good though, yet, missing those weeks really hurt his development. He got super lucky on 3 tipped balls that Delanie Walker caught last week, two of which seemed like sure interceptions out of his hand. There will be more reliance on the run game and they are going to give Dorial Green Beckham everything he can handle to see if he really is the first round talent with a side of behavioral issues that everyone says he is. Defensively they have good solid pieces and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them move one of them in the off season to create cap room and get some assets. They also need to figure out what the ownership situation and front office situation is going to be. You aren’t going to be a good team without a clear definition of who runs the business and who runs the football.
- I’m not playing any Titans this week. The Panthers defense is too good and none of the Titans are good enough to lead me to believe they can out perform a defensive unit of that stature.
Panther 35, Titans 17
- The Bears may have lost in OT for the Lions to get their only win of the season, but they have been playing very well of late and so when I saw they were getting 7 points I jumped on it. Then Alshon Jeffrey didn’t practice and I didn’t feel quite as good about that decision. Why am I not that worried about is because the Rams don’t score a ton of points and I think that this is probably a 3-6 point game in the end. I also am not ruling out the Bears winning this outright if they can bottle up Todd Gurley and put it all on Nick Foles.
- Jay Cutler is a decent start as he has played very well for most of this season. If Matt Forte plays (I don’t think he will) you start him, if he doesn’t starting Jeremy Langford is a good play. He may not get a ton of running yards, but he showed he can catch and if there is anywhere the Rams defense lapses it is in covering backs out of the backfield. You have to play Jeffrey if he is healthy, but you don’t’ have to like it.
- It’s a crossroads game for the Rams. They need to win to stay in the NFC hunt. Their two losses to the Packers and Vikings cost them the tie breaker to each of them, when the other one wins a wild card. With little chance of making up two games to catch the Rams need to not rely on tiebreakers to get into the playoffs.
- Play Todd Gurley, play Tavon Austin. Don’t play anyone else, but I don’t think owning Brian Quick or Kenny Britt is awful.
Rams 20, Bears 14
- What a bad loss at home to the Titans. The Saints have to be disappointed and now have to go on the road to a team looking to show that they are still NFC relevant even after the Patriots showed they aren’t Patriots relevant. The Saints need to play their game and give the ball to Mark Ingram. Drew Brees turned to clock back for a couple of weeks, but they can’t win that way anymore, he isn’t that guy and the weapons aren’t the same.
- Start your Saints. As long as they aren’t named Colston or CJ Spiller.
- Can you bounce back after the Patriots toy with you for 60 minutes? I think this Redskins team can because they seem totally unaware of the fact that they really aren’t that good. They aren’t bad by any stretch and I still think they could possibly steal the NFC East title (probably only because I have 5 bucks on it and great odds), but they shouldn’t be fighting for a playoff spot because they can’t play at all away from home and they aren’t even a world beater at home. Here is the thing, if they can get to 88-8 and the Rams end up at 8-8 they hold that head to head tie breaker. I talked about how hard it was for the Rams to get into the playoffs, this is another example.
- I think Kirk Cousins and Pierre Garcon/Jamison Crowder are ok plays for this particular week in all fantasy formats. I don’t think anyone is a viable long term fantasy weapon.
Redskins 27, Saints 24
- Where have you gone Danny Campbell the Dolphins turn their lonely eyes to you. Ok there is no chance anyone in the anyone in Miami is really turning their eyes to Dan Campbell. He had his chance to right the ship and maybe they can win some more games, but soon the players focus is going to shift to the beach during the day and the clubs at night. Free agents play in Miami for 3 reasons, the beach, the clubs and no state income tax.
- I think Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller and Jarvis Landry are all fine starts in all fantasy formats. Rishard Matthews, Jordan Cameron and Jay Ajayai are nice pieces to have, but I don’t think I’d be using any of them this week.
- I think Miami and Philly are pretty even teams and that’s why I gave the 6, because I’m also pretty sure that if that physical Miami team shows up they can push around the Eagles and even if it doesn’t I’m not sure Sam Bradford can do anything against this front. Chip Kelly has experimented himself out of legit contention for this bastardized version of contention.
- Demarco Murray and Ryan Matthews are the only 2 fantasy relevant guys that I’m comfortable playing every week. Jordan Matthews can be, but he has to prove it at least once more before I put him in that category.
Jaguars 28, Jets 13
- The season is over for the Browns, time to begin to build for 2016. They have a lot of nice pieces so if they can develop those guys and decide on a QB they could push for a playoff spot in 2016. Granted I don’t know who that QB is, but Josh McCown is old and Johnny Football seems to be saying he is too short, and I’m not sure what he expects the Browns to do about that.
- Play Duke Johnson and Gary Barnidge and I don’t think anyone else is reliable.
- Losing Big Ben Roethlisberger is hard, but if they survive this week without him (and it’s not even a sure thing he misses this week yet) and I think they can pretty easily, then they can be right back into the playoff mix. And a team no one is going to want to play in a win or go home game.
- DeAngelo Williams, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant are all every week fantasy starters and Big Ben will be too when he returns. Heath Miller falls in that 4-12 TE range. And look out for the guy I once coached against, Jordan Todman if DeAngelo Williams isn’t healthy.
Steelers 27, Browns 10
- At this point in the year most 2-6 teams are done. Not in the AFC South though! Jacksonville is probably in the best place to win the division now that Andrew Luck is on the shelf for at least the better part of the month and the fact that Houston doesn’t have a QB and the Titans don’t have a coach. Jacksonville has been at least a little competitive in most of it’s game this season and if they can get over the playing down to opponents they should beat up on they can ride into the playoffs probably 2 years ahead of schedule.
- I like Blake Bortles, TJ Yeldon, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns (if he plays. Julius Thomas and Bortles haven’t quite gotten on the same page and Thomas looks very rusty, which is unsurprising given how much football he has missed. If they get on the same, and I think they are close, and he stays healthy that could jump this offense from exciting and explosive, but streaky to game changing and dynamic. So right now Thomas falls in that 4-12 TE range where you are hoping they fall in the end zone for a TD.
- What’s more desolate the Pit in The Wire or the depth of WRs on the Ravens, and I’m a Chris Givens fan, but even I’ll admit I don’t see him being a starter. I think you want a guy like that on the field for 35-40% of your offensive snaps and every time you want him to run downfield at top speed and if the DB doesn’t follow him your throw it to him, and Joe Flacco has the perfect arm for Givens. That’s not the only hole on the roster, there are plenty more. It’s a lost season for the Ravens, time to see who can help going forward and who needs to go away.
- Justin Tucker is a stud fantasy kicker and I like him better than Stephen Gostkowski for 1 reason and 1 reason alone, Jim Harbough let’s him try ridiculously long field goals far more often than he should, especially if the clock is going to expire at the half. No idea if they will keep running Justin Forsett out there for 20+ touches a game or if they will try to see what Buck Allen has in his tank, but this early I expect Forsett to still get those 20+ touches. Anyone else out side of those 3 is a total crap sheet.
Jaguars 38, Ravens 34
SUNDAY 4 PM GAMES
- Minnesota suddenly finds themselves on top of the NFC North tied with the Packers. This makes them master of their own destiny. They have both of their Packers games ahead of them, and also games against the rest of the NFC contenders, the Giants, the Cardinals, the Seahawks and the maybe contender Falcons. If they win out and get help they can be the 1 seed in the NFC. If they win out and don’t get help they can be the #2 seed in the NFC and get home field until the NFC Championship game, and in the NFC Championship game if the #1 seeded Panthers lose. Teddy Bridgewater appears to be healthy and Adrian Peterson is capable of putting the team on his back for 8 games, and if he chooses to do that now to kill the clock and a defense that can make opponents squirm, this team can be in it late into January.
- I’m not shying away from the big Viking names, Peterson, Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs. Mike Wallace is even likely to be open, but I’m not sure if he can catch anymore.
- Listen the Raiders are completely legit, this is not smoke and mirrors, the team can play.They allow way too many yards on defense, but when you can score seemingly at will, you are going to be playoff relevant in today’s NFL. If they can add a piece or 2 on defense and maintain their offense they can be a force in the AFC West for quite a few years because Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavious Murray are all young and under team control for a while. I say all that about how good the Raiders are, but pick the Vikings to win because they are better all around team. Vegas is getting 3 points too, so if you like them as a better team (I do, that seems like a no brainer for you.)
- Start Carr, Cooper, Michael Crabtree and if he is healthy Murray, he literally just got upgraded to probable, so it’s likely he will play.
Vikings 27, Raiders 24
- It’s the game that scares a Patriot fan more than any other, a Giants game. In the Tom Brady, Bill Belichick era the Giants have twice played the spoiler defeating the QB/Coach duo in the Super Bowl. So as boisterous as you might hear some New England fans this week, know deep down inside they are terrified, partly because of the generational inferiority complex Bostonians hold against New York and the recent history with the Giants.
- The Giants defense stinks. Play your Pats. I don’t know which guy gets the Dion Lewis role, but I think it’s safe to play LeGarrette Blount and wait to see on who becomes the other guy and if he is any good.
- I don’t think the Giants can win or cover, but I’m terrified none the less. I think the Giants have put together a dynamic set of offensive weapons so I believe they will be able to score, but they haven’t had success in stopping anyone on the other side of the ball. Jason Pierre Paul back from the accident will help, but one guy can be stopped 90-95% of the time. Can he work in concert with the under performers that have been there all year to create a pass rush that disrupts the game flow of the other team. If they can the Giants should be able to run off with the NFC East, if not they can still win it, it’ll just be a harder road to slog through.
- Feel free to start any Giant you are typically comfortable with normally starting. The Pats defense is playing really well, but I don’t know that they are that good. Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Jr., and maybe Shane Vereen. The rest, eh.
Patriots 41, Giants 27
- I thought KC was going to roll over and die after they lost Jamaal Charles and they probably should have, but they haven’t and despite having lost a lot of good players to injuries they are still playing at a high level. The real test will be this week in Denver, if they play like the team that almost beat Denver earlier this year, they can be relevant going forward. If they will turn into a team that no team fighting for a playoff spot will want to play down the stretch.
- Travis Kelce and Charcandrick West are the only super relevant fantasy players with Jeremy Maclin being a nice piece, but unreliable. Alex Smith if you are desperate.
- How does Denver bounce back, not only after losing in Indy, but melting down at the end of the game as well. It should be a little easier to avoid a meltdown with the talented, but unpredictable Aqib Talib suspended.
- You have to start Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. You don’t have to start CJ Anderson, but you could, same with Peyton Manning.
Broncos 24, Chiefs 21
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- Arizona can just about win the NFC West with win in Seattle Sunday. Coming off the bye I expect them to have been able to get their offense back on track after a couple weeks where things looked a little out of sorts, even against the vaunted Seahawks defense who also are coming off of the bye.
- I’m not afraid of the Seahawks defense with weapons as good as the Cardinals. So start Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown (if he plays), Michael Floyd is a little riskier, but plenty safe if Brown doesn’t play. I wouldn’t be afraid to use a bench spot on Andre Ellington and/or David Johnson, but for heaven’s sake don’t start them.
- I think the question isn’t if the Seahawks can fix their problems coming out of the bye schematically, it’s do they have the personnel to fix their problems and I think the answer is no. Their depth has been depleted as they have to had pay many of their stars to stick around. I still think they are a very good team, but teams that go to back to back Super Bowls struggle to get back and we are seeing that exemplified in Seattle. Sorry Danielle.
- Russel Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are the two guys you can trust in fantasy. Jimmy Graham is in the that TE group I keep talking about, 4-12 and hoping for a TD. Add Thomas Rawls if you own Lynch and/or have a bench spot. I’m not sure that Lynch has a whole lot left in the tank, plus the RB injury rate in 2015 has been insane.
Cardinals 21, Seahawks 20
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- The Bengals gave me the first big sign they are not to be trifled with in 2015 as long as they sty healthy last week and I expect them to continue that trend in prime time again against a very bad Texans team.
- Start your Bengals and I know you hate Jeremy Hill, but he is going to be fantasy relevant sooner rather than later the team is too good around him.
- It’s not as easy to coach in the NFL without Tom Brady making the decisions on the field is it Bill O’Brien? I think once they have someone in there who is more reliable than Brian Hoyer and a RB who isn’t a porcelain doll like Arian Foster they can develop O’Brien’s offense. Will ownership wait that long becomes the question.
- I’ve said it for a while, DeAndre Hopkins and no one else.
Bengals 38, Texans 17